From Publishers Weekly
In a series of vividly told vignettes, critic and poet Long (Blue
) illustrates how the East End of Long Island indelibly etched a mark on the style and work processes of the abstract impressionists and their artistically minded friends. For artists like Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning and their respective wives, Lee Krasner and Elaine, the Hamptons were a creative playground in the 1950s. Long reimagines their lives there in stories told from the artists' points of view. Pollock, aka Jack the Dripper, and Krasner moved to the East End in 1945 in an attempt to curb the infamous inebriate's drinking and stimulate his talent, and Long cleverly narrates Pollock's artistic methods. When the artist "unleashed screaming ribbons of cadmium yellow, it was like a hot trumpet solo," Long writes, likening his painting process to jazz improvisations. Former MoMA curator Frank O'Hara, Fairfield Porter, Jean Stafford and New Yorker
cartoonist Saul Steinberg receive similarly poetic treatment, but it's with titans like Pollock and de Kooning that Long best captures the spirit of modernism as filtered through New York's rural past.
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New York City's influence on American art and literature is a given. Less well known is the effect of bucolic Long Island. Long, the art critic for the East Hampton Star,
offers a vivid history of the Hamptons as a sea-caressed mecca for Manhattan-based painters and writers, a bohemian group who flocked to the shore each summer, beginning in the Gilded Age with William Merritt Chase and Childe Hassam. But Long soon wearies of factual reporting and chooses to slip into imaginary inner monologues instead, writing in the voices of Long Island's most notorious artist outlaw, Jackson Pollock; one of the island's most enduring denizens, Willem de Kooning; Fairfield Porter, who lived there with his wife and his lover, James Schuyler; as well as Frank O'Hara, Jean Stafford, and Saul Steinberg. Long's empathic projections are certainly mesmerizing and moving, as long as the reader is well versed in each artist's and writer's life and work, but there is an element of trespass here as Long covertly mixes fiction with art history. Donna SeamanCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved